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Teen Magazines and Their Effect on Girls

The World According to Teen Magazines

“Getting Him to Notice You!”

“Shedding Those X-tra Pounds!”

“Shedding Those X-tra Pounds So He’ll Notice You!”

“Teen magazines” is for all intents a synonym for “girls’ magazines.” Boys really don’t have anything comparable to these publications, which have changed surprisingly little in the years since your or your sister’s subscription expired. On the whole, they still convey a two-dimensional impression of adolescent girls as boy-crazy clotheshorses who are obsessed with how they look. A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation analyzed the top-four teen magazines. Forty-four percent of the articles focused on dating or sex, and 37 percent on appearance.

A mere 12 percent of the articles were reserved for advice about school or careers. The accent on physical appearance spills over into the advertisements, four in five of which are for clothing and beauty products. Models predominate the ads and the photos used to accompany the articles. With rare exception, the faces are strikingly pretty and the bodies, well toned. You’ve probably suspected that repeated exposure to such images would influence young female readers, but you may be surprised just how strong an impression they make.

Teens also read fashion-oriented magazines for adults, which present a similar mix of clothing ads and articles about relationships and sex. A study published in a 1999 edition of Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, distributed a questionnaire to approximately 550 girls in grades five through twelve. Nearly half the participants reported that magazine pictures convinced them they needed to lose weight. Disturbingly, while 66 percent overall said that they wanted to shed some pounds, more than half of those girls were not overweight at all. According to the researchers, from medical institutions in Massachusetts and Virginia, girls who frequently read fashion magazines were two to three times more likely to diet than occasional readers.

A Well-Rounded Girl? Sample Articles from Popular Teen Magazines

  • “The Ultimate Get-a-Guy Guide”
  • “Get a Bikini Butt”
  • “Six Star Couples’ Secrets for Everlasting Love”
  • “Dude Snagging Do’s and Don’ts”
  • “Love Clues: Fifteen Ways to Make Him Want You Bad”
  • “Get Gorgeous: A Survey of One Thousand Teens Reveals Seventy-five Favorite Beauty Products”
  • “Find True Love: Twenty-four Crucial Clues to Snag Your Crush”

What You Can Do

Flip Through Each Month’s Issue and Use The Articles As Catalysts For Discussion

You may gain some insights into your teenager’s views and values.

Example: “I picked up your latest issue of Go Girl! magazine and started reading the article about that poor boy who was nearly killed in a college fraternity hazing ritual. I couldn’t put it down. When I went to college, fraternities and sororities were considered uncool. Now they’re back in a big way. Would you ever consider joining a college sorority? What do you think about these initiation ceremonies where kids are humiliated, or beaten, or made to drink until they pass out?”

Counter The Magazines’ Undue Emphasis On Beauty and Celebrity

By handing your daughter interesting articles and books about women who are famous for accomplishments other than being a fashion model or an MTV veejay.

Last Updated
Caring for Your Teenager (Copyright © 2003 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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